Friday, January 30, 2009

Tough Loss to a Solid Calgary Flames Team

I thought at times tonight the Flames really dominated the game, handcuffing the Predators in the neutral zone not allowing them to get any offense going. The penalty box parade reared its ugly head again. Several undisciplined penalties and when the Preds really needed goals in the 3rd period they were down a man killing penalties. Other news of note:

* The Super Duper Top Line- my strategy proves right again with a goal by J.P. Dumont but that was about it. But that is what I think it produces, 1-2 goals per game.
* Tip your hat to Miikka Kiprusoff- he stoned the legitimate chances the Preds had to get back in the game
* One of the tougher games we have seen Shea Weber play- had some good chances to score but also had a terrible pass/turnover that led to Calgary's 2nd goal
* Pekka Rinne- continues very good play with some incredible saves to keep Preds in it. I thought 2 of the Flames' goals were not his fault. One was a 2 on 1 after a Preds bad pass and the other was a shot Aucoin almost fanned on but managed to shot a change up past Rinne.
* I thought Jones/Legwand/Erat line had a good night but couldn't get a goal. Very active, good chances most of the night. They had some of the only good shifts thru the middle part of the game when Calgary dominated the middle of the ice.
* Still have some concern over Sullivan. Still not sticking his nose into the action but maybe that will take a little longer before complete confidence in the back returns.

Off to Edmonton. A win on Sunday would be a great 4 point trip to start the 2nd half.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finally Get My Super Duper Top Line Pairing!!!!!!

What a great start to the 2nd half!!!!!!!! The team came out skating hard with a fire we haven't seen in some time. Coach Trotz finally went with a oldie but a goodie top line of Dumont/Arnott/Sullivan which I have been begging to see. The result? 2 goals and some other very good chances. There is still a large mountain to climb but this is something to build from, especially rallying from a 3-1 deficit on the road. Other nuggets from the game of note:

J.P. Dumont- skating hard and scores goal, probably finding comfort playing with Arnott again
Steve Sullivan- looking better each time out but still shying away from contact situations
Power play- 3 goals on 8 tries, lets hope that continues
Ryan Jones- gritty play made Legwand/Erat/Jones line a solid second unit
Martin Erat- if he plays with that passion each night a playoff return very possible
Pekka Rinne- 3 goals for Canucks were crap and he made HUGE saves to keep them at 3
Joel Ward & Jordan Tootoo- drew 3 penalties aggravating and doing the dirty work

Bonk, Arnott, Legwand contributed strong games as well. Off to Calgary, we owe them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Respectfully Disagree with Trotz Line Pairings Against Devils

Outside of a brief time in the first and third periods, the offense didn't generate great chances in my opinion. The overall effort was better, but compared to Saturday night it had no place to go but up. Coach Trotz's lines tonight seemed to be an attempt to make 3 even strength lines along with a checking line. I say make the "big dog" line that generates a good chance 4 out of 5 times on the ice. I don't think the Preds have the talent depth to spread the offense across 3 lines. Go with Arnott, Dumont and either Sullivan or Erat at the top line. Make a second strong line. Pair some speed guys on the 3rd line and then go bruisers on the 4th line. Tootoo is best served on the 4th line agitating and drawing penalties. Legwand had an offensive resurgence at winger, but Trotz moved him back to center tonight. ???????. Move improved Radek Bonk up to center 2nd line. He wins faceoffs and will stand in front of the net. He can also bring the puck out of the corner. Here are my line choices for the 2nd half of the season that gives us the best chance to produce/score/win.

Arnott centers Dumont/Erat
Bonk centers Legwand/Sullivan
Santorelli centers Jones/Pihlstrom
Nichol centers Tootoo/Smithson

Other items of note from the Devils game:
* Listening to player's comments after the game they seem happy with effort and looking for some bounces to go their way. I think that is dangerous. I would like to see more unhappiness they didn't win, especially following the effort Saturday against Atlanta.
* Coach Trotz seemed to come down on J.P. Dumont after the game, saying he is not skating. He obviously wants to see more life and work out of him.
* We are still at a scary time. A win would have been great going into the all star break. How will the team react coming back? There is a big western Canada swing after the break followed by a bunch of home games in February. The Preds have a bunch of work to get done and little room for error.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coach Barry Trotz at Season's Breaking Point

In what had to be the low point of the season, the Preds give up the first 5 goals and lose 7-2 to the Thrashers. Coach Barry Trotz is going to earn his money in the next 48 hours. A loss like Saturday's to the Thrashers can be the tipping point to a season already in jeopardy of going completely bad. Coach Trotz has to get the team focused, eliminate the hangover from the loss and somehow get a victory over the New Jersey Devils heading into the all star break. Good luck coach Trotz, Preds nation hopes you can pull it off.

News and tidbits from the game:

* Bad luck for Dan Ellis continues- Bad bounces in such a short amount of time continue. The team has let him down as far as defensive support as well. He has been pulled in recents starts against Pittsburgh and Atlanta but his play was not that bad.

* Stats killer- If you believe in +/-, turn your head on Saturday's telling story. Hamhuis and Zanon at -4. Koistinen, Smithson, Santorelli and Dumont -3.

* Santorelli and Jones back to Milwaukee- Moved to keep playing during the lengthy all star break or sent down to make room for guys getting healthy?

That is all for now, send in those comments.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh Canada, We Got Two Points From Thee.....

Okay, sorry for the bad play on the anthem words. Two points from the 2 game trip to Toronto/Montreal not bad considering all the injuries team is dealing with now. Great effort in loss to a good Canadiens team last night. Were it not for 2 fluke goals by Canadiens, a 4 point trip(2 wins) was very possible. Here are the highlights as I see them:

* Welcome to NHL Alexander Sulzer- the prized defenseman had a solid debut and played well. Great pass to Santorelli late in the game set up a nice scoring chance.

* Great effort considering Preds were missing 2 of their top 5 players in Arnott and Weber. Like I said above, were it not for 2 bad bounces on Canadiens goals, Preds would have come away with 1 or 2 points from the game.

* Legwand/Erat continue to have bounce in their step and creating good offensive chances.

* Steve Sullivan having no major setbacks and with each passing game looks better and better.

* Would like to see Santorelli get a goal so he doesn't start to press and feel pressure of a trip back to Milwaukee if he doesn't.

* Beating the dead horse- I still think a trade involving Ellis and a defenseman can bring some offensive help.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Home and Home with Blackhawks

The 2 games in 2 days result in 2 points for each side with both winning on home ice. Several positive signs for the Preds though listed below:

1. Legwand/Erat contribute again with strong offensive efforts. The top line that includes Jason Arnott has provided results 2 games in a row counting Thursday's game with the Penguins.
2. Pecca Rinne solidified #1 goalie spot with another good effort in the win Saturday. Dan Ellis played well in loss today and still makes my suggestion he has the best trade value for David Poile look good.
3. Steve Sullivan returns and looks good all things considered. Sullivan gets time on 4th line and power play, created some good chances while on the ice.
4. With Arnott and Sullivan sitting out Sunday's game to be safe and fully heal, the Preds gave a good effort but came up short.

If Sullivan and Arnott return for Tuesday's game in Toronto as expected, it will tell if the progress/momentum from Thursday/Saturday is for real or just a temporary peak. Got my fingers crossed it is for real.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered?

So many good things from tonight's game. Let's review.......
1. Strong performance against a good team- play most of the night stayed in the Pittsburgh zone and two Penguin goals bounced over Preds. Easily could have won game 4-1.
2. Overcoming adversity- rallying from 3 goal deficit could be a springboard
3. Puzzle solved- we have been looking for a line mate to jump start Legwand/Erat and Arnott was the answer. Let's see if it continues.
4. Rinne is the man- huge save after huge save, he is the #1 goalie until he proves otherwise

Kudos to Legwand/Erat.....
After much criticism and mounting pressure to get going, they both tally a goal and were very active. More so than anything else, the passion they played with and displayed after each goal was very encouraging.

What's Next?
Sullivan return scheduled for tomorrow, what line does he play with? A lot of momentum from tonight, tough decisions for coach Trotz. Good problem to have.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Sullivan Countdown Begins.....

Looks like my prayer request from the 12/30 blog worked. Steve Sullivan announced in the last few days the back feels strong enough to give it a go in a game, tentatively set for January 1oth against the Blackhawks. Listening to the talk shows today you can sense the excitement building for the game Saturday. I would say this is the biggest game for excitement since the debut of Peter Forsberg. And the only thing bigger than the excitement is the pressure on Sullivan. The team really needs a lift on the offensive side, but how long will it take for Sully to get into game shape and get the magical touch with the stick back? I am afraid the current 5 game losing streak dictates it better happen quick, which puts pressure on his shoulders to lift the team out of its slump along with his back.

Line Combinations I Would Like to See
1. If Sully comes back healthy and gets in the groove, where does he go? Straight to the top line. Dumont/Arnott/Sullivan is my choice for the top line. Create the superpower line that will yield consistent, solid scoring chances each shift and 1-2 goals per game.
2. Ward/Legwand/Erat- Can Joel Ward work the corners and get some opportunities for the "skill" players Legwand/Erat? Still looking for the magical missing 3rd piece to make this line finally perform to expectations. Radulov is my first choice, but I digress....
3. Jones/Bonk/Pihlstrom- Bonk has been toiling and wasting time on the 4th line all year. He wins face-offs and still has some skills to create. Problem is when he gets space/puck control on 4th line, Smithson/Peverly/Fiddler/whomever rarely convert. Give him a shot at centering a line with a little more skill to see what he can do.
4. Tootoo/Nichol/Smithson- The gnat line. Tootoo/Nichol are smaller, solid guys who annoy and draw penalties by getting in your face. They also both have a good slapshot when they get an opportunity. When you have a team struggling to score, these guys provide much needed additional power play chances by disturbing the other team. If Sullivan returns to sniper form with his shot, these power play chances provided by the 4th line will be goals 20% of the time.

All for now, love to hear a comment from you.